The past few years I’ve conducted a staggered withdrawal from all forms of social media, most recently backing away from Facebook.
I left Twitter during a Lenten fast; I dropped Instagram this past summer.
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This post by Alan Jacobs captures one thing I’ve loved about my step back from social media environments: privacy. Being alone, and letting others alone. Not knowing what a loose connection thinks about a news story, or not knowing the latest conspiracy theory a friend is now pushing.
Mo Perry, whom Jacobs quotes, writes that ditching social media gives us a “chance to rediscover privacy.”
What happens when you rediscover privacy?
Perry identifies one significant consequence. You get “[t]o inhabit…experience without broadcasting it or framing it for public consumption.”
Perry hopped off social media for a weekend trip, motivated by her observation that “my social media feed is full of people scolding others who have the audacity to try to salvage a shred of joy and pleasure from their lives…The communally encouraged state of being is dread and misery and rage. People who eat at restaurants, people who let their kids play on playgrounds, people who walk around the lake without a mask — all condemnable, contemptible. Selfish. How dare they?”
Who wants to be part of that kind of environment? Why continue to subject yourself to it if you don’t have to? Why continue to log in and camp out in social media environments that are stoking hatred for others while also bolstering your own feelings of self-righteousness?
Remember, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are all algorithmically designed to show you more of what you want to see, more posts that confirm your biases, and more posts that stoke your outrage. It’s built to put the things before you that make you happy or make you mad, and we’re more drawn to the things that make us mad. Social media is well designed to make you angry.
Regarding Perry’s observation, Alan Jacobs writes:
A ray of hope, this thought. That what the scolds will achieve is to push the rest of us “to rediscover privacy.” To take photos that we share only with friends; to articulate thoughts just for friends. To leave Twitter and Facebook and Instagram to the scolds, who will then have no choice but to turn on one another.
Why not just go back to the way things were not that long ago, when we enjoyed our life in private, without social media? That doesn’t sound so bad. Wouldn’t we all be just a little better off?
We like to believe the myth that social media connects us, brings us together. The longer we go, the more that bit of ideology is exposed as patently false.